A Refreshing Alternative to Our Top-Down Public Education System

By Steve BucksteinCascadeNewLogo

Many Oregon parents and teachers are standing up to oppose new high-stakes tests designed to measure how well public schools are teaching the controversial Common Core Standards. So-called Smarter-Balanced tests are on track to be given to students in grades three through eight and high school juniors to measure how well they’ve mastered reading, math, writing, listening, research, and thinking.

Opposition to the tests has led Oregon’s “education czar,” Nancy Golden, to announce that although students will take the tests this year, the results won’t be used to evaluate teachers or to compare Oregon schools with one another. Of course, these reprieves won’t prevent an expected 60 to 65 percent of students from failing the tests, according to Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton.

Now, a state legislative committee has heard from Dr. Yong Zhao, Director of Global and Online Education at University of Oregon, that high-stakes tests themselves may be putting Oregon on the wrong educational track.

Dr. Zhao has been a critic of both high-stakes testing and the Common Core State Standards themselves. You can watch his entertaining 51-minute presentation to the Senate Education Committee on February 10 below:

He made a number of provocative statements, including:

  • We should promote what he calls Entrepreneur-oriented education.
  • He warns about “side effects” of things like Common Core and high stakes testing.
  • He argues that we shouldn’t homogenize students; we should enhance human talents.
  • Testing rewards compliance; it doesn’t reward asking questions.
  • We shouldn’t make kids ready for Kindergarten, we should make Kindergarten ready for kids. Creative kids aren’t Kindergarten-ready because they don’t conform.
  • In the Chinese village he comes from, Common Core was knowing how to ride a water buffalo. He didn’t do that very well, so he would have been defined as a failure if he’d stayed there.

Lucky for us, Dr. Zhao didn’t stay in China; he came to Oregon where we can hopefully benefit from his wisdom.

The entire hearing video is here, including testimony from Nancy Golden before Dr. Zhao, and testimony after him by Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton. It should be noted that Golden and Saxton were handpicked by now former-Governor Kitzhaber to help promote his flawed Oregon Education Investment Board agenda.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.